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Dean Smith: 'Aston Villa are heading in the right direction'

Dean Smith: 'Aston Villa are heading in the right direction'
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Villa are 10th in the Premier League table with five fixtures to play.

Dean Smith feels Aston Villa have demonstrated their desire for a strong finish to the season with their last two performances.

After drawing 2-2 at home against West Brom on April 25, Villa then won 2-1 at Everton last weekend, registering only their third victory in 12 games.

They are 10th in the Premier League table with five fixtures to play, starting with Sunday's clash with Manchester United at Villa Park.

Villa boss Smith told a press conference: "Our players are (still) chasing things.

"We've felt we've had some inconsistent performances, we lost a little bit of momentum. We want to finish the season well and I think people have seen that with our last two performances. We need to make sure we take that into the next game now.

"Our performance levels have gone up. We played against West Brom and had the most touches we've had in the opposition box since we got promoted. We then went to Everton and was on the front foot, created four or five big chances in the first half of the game and ended up worthy winners.

"We feel like we are going in the right direction again. These last five games, we want to hit those markers of creating big chances and being solid at the back."

While not willing to give specific details, Smith confirmed his team "have a target" for the remainder of the campaign.

"We've got some really good games coming up," Smith said.

"Manchester United, then we have the return against Everton. We have Chelsea last game, Tottenham, Crystal Palace. We've got some really good games to play, and the lads know where they want to finish, how high they want to do it, how well they want to finish.

"Our last two performances have been really good and we want to finish the way we started the season."

United reached the Europa League final on Thursday, while Manchester City and Chelsea are to meet in the Champions League final.

Asked about English clubs doing well in Europe, Smith said: "It certainly inspires us, and it's what the aims of this football club are – to be challenging for European places, whether that be Europa or Champions League. Eventually that's what we want to get to, what our owners want to get to, and the players and myself as well."

Sunday's game is part of a run of four in eight days for United, and Smith said with regard to the Villa Park contest: "I don't think they are going to change the way they play, personnel may change because of the games they've got, but their squad is good enough to rotate.

"I'm more worried that they don't get any penalties against us in this game. We've had a couple of dodgy ones against us in the last couple of games (against United)."

While the match comes too soon for Villa captain Jack Grealish, who has missed the last 11 games due to a shin problem, the midfielder was set to start training with his team-mates again on Saturday.

Morgan Sanson (knee) remains sidelined, with a return to training scheduled for next week, and Trezeguet is also out after damaging his ACL last month.

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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States98825
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia77418
Great BritainGreat Britain45413
Today's Olympic highlights header

Wednesday's key events

· Team GB have dominated the men's coxless fours in recent Olympics, winning on each of the last five occasions, but this year they face some stiff competition. They are one of four rowing medal contenders for Great Britain today (2.10am)

· Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus face off again in the women's 200m freestyle final, with the latter having already come out on top in the 400m event (2.41am)
· Team GB's Abbie Wood is among the medal contenders in the women's 200m individual medley final, while teammate Alicia Wilson will also take part. USA's Kate Douglass was the fastest qualifier, while world and Olympic record holder Katinka Hosszu is also involved (3.45am)
· Katie Ledecky could make it two golds in one morning as she goes into the 1500m freestyle final as heavy favourite, having broken the Olympic record in qualifying (3.54am)
· Team GB were by far the fastest qualifiers for the men's 4x200m freestyle relay final and will therefore be favourites for another gold in the pool (4.26am)

· Team GB take on New Zealand in the first men's semi-final, having been beaten by reigning champions Fiji but then come from behind to overcome USA on day two (3am)
· The sevens gold medal match takes place at Tokyo Stadium, with the winner of Great Britain vs. New Zealand taking on either Argentina or Fiji (10am)

· Joe Fraser and James Hall compete for Team GB in the men's all-around final (11.15am-2.10pm)

· Anna Shackley will take part in the women's road time trial (from 3.30am)
· Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart have medal ambitions for Great Britain in the men's road time trial, although both will need to recover from the crash they suffered on Saturday (6am)

· Jack Laugher bids to retain his men's 3m synchro diving title alongside new partner Daniel Goodfellow (7am)

· Charlotte Dujardin will look to add to her already legendary status with a third successive Olympic individual dressage title (9.30am-1.25pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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